Uncrossed Funding Streams

Have you ever noticed how many programs out there serve only one age group?

Day 219/365 by Great Beyond on Flickr
Day 219/365 by Great Beyond on Flickr

Even when we can manage to combine some form of childcare with adult classes, it’s often not free and basically never addresses the needs older children.

This isn’t because we believe that youth and teens are unimportant, or that our students have no children, or that it’s easy for a family to be in four different places for four different services all at the same time.  It’s because the funding is dictating the structure of our services, and not the actual need.

That being said, without funding we wouldn’t have any services.

Solutions?

Advertisements

Muffins and Testing

On Saturday morning I held a training for my volunteers called “Muffins and Testing.”

Blueberry Muffin by rachel is coconut&lime on Flickr
Blueberry Muffin by rachel is coconut&lime on Flickr

I got up early that morning and baked two dozen muffins that we munched on as we talked about testing our students (CASAS and TABE, as required by NRS standards).  You can probably see why I advertised the muffins before the subject matter.  Still, we had a great time.

I had an attendance of four, which at first glance (I have close to 30 volunteers) seems disappointing.  One of the benefits of such a small training, though, is that everyone can really participate.  I was able to tailor my talk to the questions they asked, assuage fears of only teaching to tests (we’re not only teaching to the tests, but the competencies on these tests are actually really useful to students), and lead a brainstorm that included ideas from everybody.

Though I did give them time to look through examples and to explore the online resources we have, I wish I had done about 20 minutes less talking when it came to looking at an example test-related classroom activity.  Talking too much in front of the room is a pattern of mine as a teacher and trainer, and I’m continuing to work on it!

I didn’t do a formal evaluation, but based on hearing “ah ha,” “oh, I didn’t know that,” and “wow, this means we should really try to follow the curriculum” each more than once, I’d say that they learned something.  I’m very excited to work through the brainstorm list of how we can all better support testing, from simple office tasks I can complete in 20 minutes to changing our online lesson reporting to having a volunteer be the assessment liaison.  Since learning happened and next steps appeared, I’d call it all a success!

Brains, Stress, and Behavior

Brain electrodes by laimagendelmundo on Flickr
Brain electrodes by laimagendelmundo on Flickr

The NY Times had an interesting brain science article written by Natalie Angier.  It basically said that chronically stressed-out people’s brains change: their habit-forming neurons multiply while their decision-making neurons languish.

The result of these changes is that stressed-out people rely on habits, and that these habits can become “ruts” and downright counterproductive behavior.  From the article:

“Behaviors become habitual faster in stressed animals than in the controls, and worse, the stressed animals can’t shift back to goal-directed behaviors when that would be the better approach,” Dr. Sousa said. “I call this a vicious circle.”

Angier also emphasizes the plasticity of the brain, noting that the brain returns to normal when the stressors are removed.

Some interesting groups of stressed-out people whose brain chemistry might be favoring habits over goal-driven behavior:

  • Refugees and immigrants
  • People struggling to pay bills (be they heat or private college tuition)
  • Overworked, under-supported teachers
  • Doctors

This has some pretty interesting ramifications.  What I see applying to my students (many of whom are refugees):

  • they need a safe, relaxed, predictable environment to help them think
  • many would respond well to repetitive exercises, vocabulary drills, etc.
  • teaching them basic survival habits will help them through future stressful situations

Also, this talk of stress and habits in relation to the brain begs the question of how this research fits in with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and addiction.  These conditions aren’t addressed in the article.

Interesting read!

EdWeb and Pondering

Today at a meeting, we were talking about EdWeb, a list of websites for Adult Basic Education (ABE) classroom use vetted and categorized by ABE teachers.

Someone asked if this was antiquated – what’s the point when you can just do a Google search and get a whole slew of different websites?

Someone else replied that the vetting was important because it assured quality.  The massive Google list includes a lot of junk.

I’ve had a lot of informal library training in my life, so I’ve been in the “vet it!” camp for as long as I can remember.  I have a theory, though, that the general public (meaning the “not-necessarily-indoctrinated-at-a-young-age-by-a-reference-librarian” public) might be joining this camp.

I think this for the exact reason the first person stated.  Pretty much anybody really can get a huge list of relevant websites with the ease of a Google search.  What’s harder to get is a categorized list of high quality website, and what’s even harder is knowing where to start.  So the perceived value of the all-inclusive list is decreasing while the perceived value of the Top 10 list is increasing.

Thoughts?

Summer Institute: Quick Reflection

Summer Institute is over and I’m back home in the Twin Cities.

Looking back at the conference, I realize just how valuable it was to me in terms of content and networking.

This was largely to do with the conference itself, but also because I did some things right to maximize my experience:
– took obsessive notes
– kept my papers as organized as possible
– slept enough
– wore comfortable shoes
– was open to serendipitous socializing

There are those attitudes, soft skills, and environmental supports we say our students need. We need them too!

I’m looking forward to processing more this weekend. I’ll post more about the conference in some form and also go on to more “normal” posts on Monday.

Summer Institute: Teaching Personal Finance

I’ve got about an hour until dinner, so I’ll take this opportunity to let you know what I’ve been up to at Summer Institute.

I’ve attended three sessions, one “collective-intelligence” gathering, and two plenaries.  This post will be about the first of the three sessions.

Action Plans for Making Dollars Count

My first thought was wow, this is a lot of information in a short amount of time.  This suited my needs well since one of my upcoming projects is to write a 2-week Advanced ESL unit on Personal Finance.  The presentation was a quick, perhaps even rushed overview of a financial literacy curriculum (Dollar Works 2) with tons of examples, teaching plans, activities, forms, and things to consider while teaching in this subject area.  Perfect for me.

I wish we could have gotten farther into cultural concerns, though they did recommend several resources for a more in-depth look at how  cultures that aren’t American majority culture view money:

That’s it!  Some networking just presented itself, so the blogging will commence later.

Summer Institute – Plenaries

I’ve got about an hour until dinner, so I’ll take this opportunity to let you know what I’ve been up to at Summer Institute.

I’ve attended three sessions, one “collective-intelligence” gathering, and two plenaries.

I’ll start by talking about the plenaries.  They were in the banquet hall and were always scheduled directly after a meal.  As a result, there were always plates, food, and other stuff on them that precluded comfortable (therefore any) note-taking.  So my take-away is not very detailed.  Here it is:

The first plenary presenter was by Dr. Irwin Kirsch from ETS.  He talked about America’s Perfect Storm.  The report is here.  They also have a 9-minute video that didn’t really come up on Google, which I think is an oversight on their part.  The talk was based on that video, which was about how three factors are happening in America at the same time and are leading slowly but surely to a crisis: the changing economy, changing demographics, and the nonresponsive education system.  Interesting.  Some of my questions include how ETS’s interests as a company factor into this and how things are changing as the recession continues.

The second plenary presenter was Barry Shaffer from the Minnesota Department of Education and talked about the economic climate in Minnesota and the amazing accomplishments we’ve all made this year in Adult Basic Education (ABE).  We rock, and he proved it with numbers.  Thanks, Barry.

It was great that these very important people (who I couldn’t help but notice were men talking to a room that was comprised of at least 85% women) came to talk to us about very important issues.  They were effective speakers who had a lot to share.  It struck me as strange that there wasn’t a bigger effort to up the environment so that people’s backs weren’t toward the speaker and there were clean, or at least cleared off tables to write or type on.

It’s funny how much the little things impact the big things.

I’ll talk about the sessions and collective intelligence gathering in near-future posts!